It was Dan LeFevour who gave me the idea.
For the past few weeks I’ve been messing around with the Madden NFL Mobile game, intrigued by the CFL’s recently-announced partnership. Besides, with a full-time job covering various officiating controversies (not to mention a family) I have plenty of extra time to waste playing a video game.
I’d played the mobile version of Madden before, though not for awhile. I have a long history with football video games that begins with the Celeco Electronic Handled handheld, moves through RealSports Football on the Atari 2600, then onto whatever console game my friends had.
Like everyone else, I’ve played my fair share of Madden but slowly moved away from it as it became, in my view, ridiculously complicated and time-consuming. Life intervened as well: it’s hard to justify blowing a few hours playing video games when there are kids to look after.
But the mobile version of Madden is pretty much my speed: simple controls, easy to jump into and just play. It doesn’t feel like you have to commit months of your life to it (though I may end up doing exactly that.)
It is confusing at first, though. There are Live Events which are different from regular games and the reward system, which features coins, experience points and various “cards” is wayyyyy more complex than it needs to be. But you can just figure it out as you go along.
The CFL elements come via these Live Events: essentially little challenges that you complete in order to earn rewards that can be used to collect other stuff. The first one had you playing as Joe Theisman and having to complete passes in certain zones on the field. I was just starting out and it was kinda hard and I never did master it.
Each CFL Live Event also requires the use of five “Stamina” and those are in short supply when you are first starting out (playing a regular game costs three stamina.) But after one or two attempts at the CFL Live Event, I was out of stamina and had to wait until they reloaded (about 20 minutes) or pay for more stamina. These in-app purchases is how they get you. I just waited.
The CFL Live Event had me playing as Doug Flutie and I had to complete four passes adding up to 75 yards (in seven attempts.) I managed this fairly easily and the first time I did, I received a CFL Collectible – in this case B.C. quarterback Jonathon Jennings – and some coins and experience points. You can play the Live Event again – it costs five stamina each time – but it wouldn’t give me another CFL Collectible in the half dozen or so times I managed to complete the challenge.
Today’s event has me playing as Jeff Garcia and have complete 75 yards in passing in five attempts. I’ve completed it twice but haven’t received a CFL Collectible. That’s super annoying. The second time it gave me a garbage linebacker named Trevor Roach: nothing to do with the CFL. Honestly, CFL Blitz is one of the worst Live Events in Madden Mobile in terms what you might get for what it costs to play it.
If I somehow manage to amass 20 CFL Collectables and five “Elite Trophies” I can claim a player reward. The options are Warren Moon, Mike Vanderjagt, Jeff Garcia, Doug Flutie and Joe Theisman. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take months to gather enough CFL Collectibles, not to mention the Elite Trophies. Even the nerds who shoot videos about this stuff think the CFL Legends series is a ripoff.
Given that, I was pretty much ready to give up on Madden Mobile. Then Dan LeFevour came along.
I was looking through the various menus when I came across Auctions, which enables you to bid and buy players from other Madden gamers. When you first start out, you pick an NFL team (I chose the Steelers because the colour scheme closely resembles a certain Canadian squad) but the game gives you players from across the league. As you win games, complete challenges and earn coins, the game gives you other players and allows you to earn others (like CFLers I mentioned above.) But the auction is the easiest way to upgrade your team – or build the one you want.
LeFevour just popped up randomly on my auction screen one of the first times I looked at. It was kind of startling: the former Ticat had signed in Tampa Bay this off-season but had only lasted a few weeks in the NFL before getting cut: yet there he was in the Madden game. On a whim, I bought him (because he has a relatively low rating, he was cheap.)
Then I had a thought: if LeFevour was in here, then surely there were other guys with Canadian connections. Maybe I could build a CFL-themed team within Madden.
The auction is searchable by name and position so it was simple to get started. Was former Ticat Delvin Breaux, now with the Saints, available? Yep. What about former Stamp Brandon Browner? There he is. I follow Andrew Hawkins, former Alouette, on Twitter. He’s there, too.
Then it was time to get serious. I formulated a criteria for my team: all players had to be either Canadian or former CFL players. I remembered that John Hodge had done an excellent piece for 3Down on this very thing and I used it to get started, then moved to Google.
Because it’s an Auction and all the players have rankings, some were more expensive than others. I got into a bidding war over tight end Luke Willson and my most costly acquisition to date has been kicker Sean Suisham, who cost me 25,000 coins (I sold my original kicker, Jordan Gay of the Buffalo Bills, for 35 coins.)
Because the Madden Mobile database of players is smaller than the console version, there are some obvious guys missing. For example, New York Giants centre and former Stamp Brett Jones isn’t available, despite having suited up for seven games this season. Former Ticat Erik Harris, now with the Saints, isn’t in the game. Nor is ex-Argo Marcus Ball (Raiders) or ex-Eskimo Dexter McCoil (Chargers.) Canadian running back Tyler Varga has retired and isn’t available.
To fill the final spots on my roster – two safeties, a linebacker, punt returner and kick returner – I had to turn to the CFL neg lists. The players at those positions are currently property of a Canadian team, though they may never appear on a CFL roster or play north of the border. I haven’t identified the team they belong to because front office types are notoriously sensitive about the sanctity of the neg list and there isn’t much point in annoying them over a video game. I’ll just say this: these players are Justin Dunk approved.
Finally, there was centre – the only position for which creativity was required (the game doesn’t allow players to change positions.) With no former CFLers, Canadians or even neg listers among the players available in the game, I went with “Ben Jones” who has the name last name and first initial as Brett Jones.
So here is CFL-themed Madden Mobile team, along with their Canadian connection:
QB: Dan LeFevour, current Argo
HB: Ross Scheuerman, current Ticat
FB: Tyler Clutts, former Edmonton Eskimo
WR: Andrew Hawkins, former Alouette
WR: Chris Mathews, former Bomber
WR: T.J. Jones, Canadian
TE: Luke Willson, Canadian
OT: Austin Pasztor, Canadian (Eskimos draft pick)
OG: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Canadian (Stampeders draft pick)
C: Ben Jones, same first initial and last name as Canadian Brett Jones (former Stamp)
OG: John Urschel, Canadian
OT: David Foucault, Canadian (Alouettes draft pick)
DE: Cam Wake, former B.C. Lion
DT: Stefan Charles, Canadian (Eskimos draft pick)
DT: Christian Covington, Canadian (Lions draft pick)
DE: Brent Urban, Canadian (Ticats draft pick)
LB: Brian Peters, former Rider
LB: Jerrell Freeman, former Rider
LB: Andy Mulamba, Canadian (Bombers draft pick)
LB: Korey Toomer, currently on a CFL neg list
CB: Delvin Breaux, former Ticat
CB: Brandon Browner, former Stamp
S: Ryan Murphy, currently on a CFL neg list
S: Will Hill, currently on a CFL neg list
Nickel: Kevin White, currently on a CFL neg list
Dime: Neiko Thorpe, former Argonaut
K: Sean Suisham, Canadian
P: Jon Ryan, Canadian
PR: Kaelin Clay, currently on a CFL neg list
KR: T.J. Graham, currently on a CFL neg list
How is my CFL-themed team doing? Well, I started putting it together halfway through my first full season and we won the Super Bowl, then won another one. But it’s getting harder…
So with apologies to LeFevour, I’ve also made a quarterback: I’m now starting former Cleveland Brown Johnny Manziel, the notorious bad boy who is on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats neg list. And no, he does not do the money gesture when he scores a touchdown.
That’s not very CFL, after all.